Saturday, August 07, 2010

A preliminary thought: slavery and States Rights

Another post based on thinking brought about by a review of old posts written while living in the South about the Civil War and the South. It seems to me that a lot of the anti-northern arguments by people in the South with regards to the Civil War revolve not around whether slavery as a whole was right or wrong but around whether or not a Republican, as opposed to a Democratic, approach to government was right or wrong. The Republicans, then, favored a strong central federal government and a balance of power away from the States. They followed the tradition of the Federalist Party in this, although there were quite a few differences between the two. The Democrats then as now favored less of a monolithic central government, despite what folks in the Tea Party say, and were in favor of a more grass roots approach to policy. By no means all, I should add, people who took the Democratic approach were pro-slavery. They were just for that particular political philosophy, which I subscribe to as well.

Now, Abraham Lincoln was both an exponent of the Republican Party's philosophy on government and an abolitionist. He wanted slavery to end through a vote by Congress with the Federal government enforcing it. You could read central, statist, power into this. But even so, the main issue here isn't whether or not central, statist, power is right but whether or not slavery is right. Slavery is the main issue while the particular way that slavery should be abolished is the subsidiary issue. The subsidiary issue, while having importance, shouldn't overpower the main issue.

So the argument about States' Rights, or at least part of it and one view on it because I don't want to generalize about the entire argument as it existed and still exists, dodges the issue of whether, done according to Republican principles or Democratic ones, the abolition of slavery by any means was a good thing.

If you admit that slavery was bad, it follows that you should believe that it should have ended somehow. There are, out there, possibilities about how slavery could have ended through means conducive to the Democratic philosophy and means conducive to the Republican philosophy.

In light of the belief that slavery was bad and that this is more important than what particular political philosophy was in place, the next question in the sequence is this: do you think that the response of the South to the election of Abraham Lincoln was a good decision, one that was justified, or one that was not?

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